Express & Star

Stourbridge restaurant offers meat-free steak – created by a 3D printer

It looks like a steak and has all the taste and texture of one – but this delicacy has come to the plate courtesy of a 3D printer.

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Ben Powell from VGN Boulevard, Stourbridge, with the 3D printed steak

A new range of steaks being offered at a special weekly event at VGN Boulevard in Stourbridge contain no meat whatsoever and were put together using the kind of technology normally associated with plastics.

The steaks are the latest addition to the menu by the popular restaurant on Coventry Street and will be available every Thursday on a special Steak Night, with a flank, striploin and tenderloin available to buy.

Each steak is made with a mixture of soy, pea protein, chickpeas, beetroot, nutritional yeast and coconut fat.

The 3D printer acts as a high-tech mixer, with the ingredients entered at one end and the machine intricately putting them together in strands to create a steak-shaped piece of food. The technology allows the vegan steal to replicate the texture and taste of meat.

It has been made possible through the work of Redefine Meat, an Israeli company which, as VGN Boulevard owner Ben Powell says, had only recently been working with high-end restaurants.

He said: "It's unbelievable when you first see it and you do a double-take because you can see the lines of how it's been printed and if you look at the cross section, you can see the layers and when you cut it, you can see the fibres.

"There's so many proteins that go into it and the mouth-feel and textures are quite remarkable and I think they are the only company in the world doing this and it's something they've worked on for many years.

"They were only working with fine dining restaurants such as Marco Pierre White, but I thought this was something I'd like to give a go and so I wrote to them.

"They were very honest with me and said that, at the moment, they were only working with fine dining restaurants, but they fell in love with our story because of what we were doing and agreed to work with us."

Mr Powell said the process had taken a long time due to supplier issues, but the restaurant was finally able to trial the steak on Valentines Day and sold 45 covers over two sittings, with Mr Powell saying the response was overwhelmingly positive.

He said: "A lot of people were bowled over and really shocked about it and over the 45 covers we had, only two people said they couldn't eat it as it was far too realistic, but their partners ate it anyway.

"A lot of people also told me how filling it was, even for such a small portion, and we're going to see how it goes as it's an expensive product, which is reflected in the price, but we've taken a hit to make sure it's as affordable as possible."

The 3D-printed steak at VGN Boulevard, Stourbridge before being cooked

The 5oz flank costs £24.95, the 9oz striploin £26.95 and the 10oz tenderloin, which needs to be ordered a week in advance, is £34.95, each with a choice of sauce of peppercorn, Jim Bean Glaze or Baecon Garlic Butter.

Mr Powell said he and his wife Nicola had tried all three and noticed the differences in all three and said that, as a person who used to eat meat three times a day, it represented a huge step forward in food technology.

He said: "I used to eat meat three days a week and I was anti-vegan until I made the switch as I didn't want to contribute to the cruelty, so this is a huge step forward and is so cutting edge.

"That's why it is so expensive at the moment, but eventually, prices will come down when the process is made easier and ingredients are more affordable."

The steak after it's been cooked and plated up with onion rings, mushroom, fries and corn

Mr Powell said the restaurant was looking at a different approach to how they sold the steaks, saying that a friend's restaurant couldn't cope with the demand after making it a regular part of their menu, and said he wanted to make it a weekly event with a set menu.

He said: "What we want to do is make it an event, more than all the time, so we're turning the restaurant on a Thursday evening into a steakhouse, not running the regular menu.

"That's to make sure that we get this right and we want to make sure that we dedicate our time and the effort is reflected in how it's served, so we're going for a smokehouse feel and serving it as a steak meal.

"We've added the barbecued mushroom with the seasoning and kept things like the boston beans and our homemade slaw, so if people want to reduce their meat consumption, but still fancy a steak, VGN Boulevard is where it is at."